A popular program presented by libraries each year is “One City, One Book,” which promotes literacy by encouraging a community to read—and discuss—the same book at the same time. Using a similar format, the Beaufort County (S.C.) Library is presenting “One County Reads One Country” this fall. The goal of the project is to generate thoughtful dialogue about Afghanistan and its history and culture, in order to promote a greater understanding of this country and its people. The program is intended for all ages, and the books that will be read include The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, for adults, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, for young adults, and Afghan Dreams: Voices of Young Afghanistan edited by Michael Sullivan and Tony O’Brien, for children.
In conjunction with these readings, the library has also created corresponding programming to appeal to library patrons of all ages. Storytimes for preschoolers through eleven-year-olds have different themes related to Afghanistan, such as “Tea Time” or “Arabian Tales,” for each age group. For teens, programs range from a lesson about the history and application of henna tattoos, to the headier Teen Board Meeting Discussion, in which teens discuss what to do if the world were to be suddenly without oil. For the whole family, there are programs such as making and flying kites, a popular pastime for boys and men in Afghanistan.
Programs for adult participants also cover a wide range of topics. Some are specifically about Afghanistan and Afghani culture, such as the lecture, “The Message of the Qur’an,” which explored both the history of the Islamic faith as well as misconceptions about Islam. Other programs take from both parts of the project’s title—“One County,” “One Country”—to highlight themes universal to both. For instance, child labor is discussed in In the Sea There Are Crocodiles. Using this same theme, the library hosted a program that explored Beaufort County’s own history of child labor, which was common in the workforce through the 1930s.
The library does not ignore the political relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, but addresses it in programs like “Life Behind the Lines,” about the experiences of servicemen and women in Afghanistan. The library will also be holding numerous discussions, limited to 25 participants each, about topics concerning Afghanistan, and the role the United States should play in making changes.